Clean Water Entrepreneurship Program in Ghana Earns Prestigious Support for Saha Global’s Co-Founder


$100,000 Fellowship Grant Awarded to Boston Visionary Kate Cincotta


Native villagers in the African country of Ghana use the Dagboni word saha to mean ‘opportunity.’

Unfortunately, there hadn’t been much opportunity to use that word in most of the country’s rural areas until the arrival of visionary humanitarian Kate (Clopeck) Cincotta in 2008 with co-founder of Saha Global (www.sahaglobal.org), fellow MIT graduate Vanessa Green.

Though launched and based in Boston, Mass., Saha Global’s frontline work is entirely in Ghana, 7,770 miles away. A small Boston staff handles volunteer recruitment and fundraising.

Saha provides cheap, clean drinking water to people living in rural communities by training women how to take advantage of the resources available to them and donating the capital that they need to start a clean water business. To date, Saha has launched 93 water businesses in Ghana. 100% are still in operation.

The Vision: A Better Life for Children

In recognition of her work, the Mulago Foundation of San Francisco chose Cincotta to join its prestigious Fall 2016 Rainer Arnhold Fellows Programwhere participants “focus on their ideas and a systematic way to apply them. Saha is receiving two $50,000 grants -- a total of $100,000 over two years. Founded in 1993, Mulago carries on the work of pediatrician/philanthropist Rainer Arnhold, “to bring a better life for children in poverty... (to support) organizations that tackle a basic need of the very poor, have a scalable solution, and know how to deliver it.” That’s exactly us!” smiles Cincotta, pointing to the organization’s motto, ‘Solving problems with opportunities.’

The course brought Fellows and faculty together for an intensive week to work on design for maximum impact and scalability. Held in Bolinas, California, the course gave Fellows the rare opportunity to focus completely on their ideas and a systematic way to apply them.

What caught the attention of Mulago? Cincotta says it’s Saha’s 100% success rate, simple approach, and commitment to long-term monitoring and evaluation.

Creating A Permanent Source of Clean Water

Cincotta says, “Saha is the first water organization selected by Mulago for the Fellows program. We both believe that Saha cannot only serve the poorest of the poor, but we also have the potential to scale. The key is simplicity. Our water treatment centers use all locally available, affordable, low-tech products. It costs Saha less than $12 to provide a permanent source of clean water to one person. Other organizations average around $20 - 25 per person.”

Reflecting on the course, Cincitta says, “Mulago is different than any other funder we’ve had. They are a true partner in every sense of the word. They want to work with us to help us grow and achieve maximum impact, and understand that there will be challenges along the way.”

She adds, “We’re really proud of the impact we’ve had so far: Over 45,000 people in Ghana now have permanent access to safe drinking water.” But there are 800,000 in Northern Region Ghana who still lack access to clean water. Fueled by its partnership with Mulago, Saha’s goal is to rapidly scale in northern Ghana, doubling its impact by 2018, to reach over 400,000 people in the next 5 years.

Still Facing Tough Challenges

Saha Global certainly chose two of Ghana’s toughest challenges: (1) There’s a very high risk of food or waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever; and (2) The biggest single economic issue is the lack of consistent electricity. Things are improving slowly, though average life expectancy is just 66 years, per capita income is $4,300, and the 2015 inflation rate was 17%.

Green and Cincotta understood that the water needs in Ghana were not due to a lack of technical solutions. “We knew the challenge lay in the implementation of those solutions in the field. We developed a durable implementation model, community-scale, low-tech, social enterprise approach that formed the foundation of Saha Global’s model.” They raised funds to pilot the idea from the Public Service Center at MIT, then headed back to Ghana in 2008 to found Saha Global.

In another project, Saha is teaching local entrepreneurs how to collect solar energy to light lanterns so children can study at night, and to charge cell phones – also for a small profit.

Twice each year, Saha Global recruits and trains scores of college students in ‘social entrepreneurship. Volunteers spend three weeks in Ghana villages helping to set up micro-businesses. In each village, the chief designates two women to learn how to chlorinate water and sell it to fellow villagers for a small profit.

College students interested in being Field Reps in Ghana can learn more at the Saha Global website. Saha Global also seeks individual donations, Corporate Partners and Field Rep Sponsors. For more info, email kate@sahaglobal.org or visit www.sahaglobal.org. As a 501(c)(3) organization, donations are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law. Donations may be made online or via check made out to Saha Global, and mailed to 26 West Broadway #302, Boston, MA 02127.

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